All in the Modern Family
The traditional notion of the nuclear family – a household run by married parents of the opposite sex, raising their biological children – has long been a shallow reflection of what a family actually looks like and how it behaves. Families today are increasingly made up of people from all different cultures, genders, ages and even bloodlines, in strikingly different dynamics – for example, same-sex partners with an adopted brood; single-parent homes with biracial children; divorced parents that have each remarried, creating a double-family unit. To appropriate Tolstoy, ‘All traditional families are alike; every modern family is modern in its own way.’ But with all of this change happening, brands have been remarkably slow in keeping up. As Nicole Kemp wrote in her recent Campaign article Nuclear Family Fallout, “the family unit has changed dramatically in recent decades but brands remain wedded to the ideal of a nuclear family that no longer exists.” By clinging to this ideal, “they are ignoring the realities of a significant number of consumers” – missing out on a huge opportunity to reach a wider audience and engage consumers on a more meaningful, emotional level.
So how can brands ‘catch-up’ and get involved in the conversation? The key is to stop thinking of the so-called ‘Modern Family’ as tokenism, a trend to be capitalized on. The Modern Family isn’t a fad, it's the world we live in – a direct reflection of how society and family dynamics have changed. Brands should be embracing and celebrating the Modern Family rather than avoiding it or downplaying its existence.
This new family, in its diversity, is giving us a multitude of new stories to tell. It’s an exciting time in the world of branding and advertising and now is the time to really make a statement. It’s not about eschewing tradition, it’s about changing tradition, creating new traditions. If you want to stay relevant as a brand, you have to evolve as society evolves. If you want to engage with consumers in a meaningful way, you have to reflect the reality of their daily lives and experiences.
Two brands that have taken this to heart are Cheerios and American biscuit brand HoneyMaid. A couple years ago, Cheerios ran an ad campaign portraying a biracial family. While seen as controversial to some, it was a moving celebration of the love and connection shared by all types of families. They moved beyond the superficial notions of what a family should look like and focused on what family means, and the feelings it evokes.
HoneyMaid takes this even further with their “This is Wholesome” campaign. A series of ads embracing people’s differences and championing acceptance, the campaign aims to demonstrate that “no matter how things change, what makes us wholesome never will.”
Both of these brands rightfully recognize that while there are many different types of families, the values and desires shared by their members are the same. Whether it’s two moms, a single parent, grandparents, step siblings, half siblings, adopted siblings, friends… A family is a family is a family. There is no “traditional” family anymore, no “normal.” Brands therefore need to focus less on demographics and more on psychographics, on the emotional mindset of what it means to be part of a family in today’s world. In doing so, they’ll be able to connect with consumers in a more honest, personal, and powerful way.
Brands that hang on to images of the ‘traditional’ nuclear family because they are afraid of change or worried about being controversial will quickly find themselves irrelevant. Brands that want to survive in the 21st century have to evolve. They need to embrace the diversity and celebrate the meaning of family – or get left behind.